Friday, January 24, 2003
C.A. Upholds Life Sentence for ‘Lawyer’ in ‘Sexual Con Game’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A man who posed as a lawyer and convinced women that he could get criminal charges against members of their families dropped if they would have sex with him was properly convicted of rape and other crimes, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Div. Eight upheld Richard A. Minsky’s 146-year-to-life sentence on multiple counts of rape, oral copulation, and anal and genital penetration involving four women. Prosecutors, Justice Laurence Rubin wrote for the Court of Appeal, adequately proved that the women had sex with Minsky only under duress.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marsha Revel imposed the harsh sentence, describing Minsky’s acts as “just pure evilness,” according to a news account.
Rubin detailed a “sexual con game” in which Minsky would call women, posing as a lawyer for a loved one supposedly being held on hit-and-run charges, and said the relative would get out of jail if a witness could be persuaded not to press charges.
The former used car salesman would then instruct the women to meet with the so-called witness at various locations in the Los Angeles area. Identifying them by using the prearranged code words “Abraham Lincoln,” he made a show of refusing money, then saying that what he was doing was wrong and starting to walk away, in order to gain the women’s trust and persuade them to accompany him to a motel, Rubin said.
He was convicted on 14 counts involving sexual offenses, plus several counts of grand theft and attempted grand theft for obtaining or trying to obtain money from two of the same victims plus other women. The latter counts were not at issue in the appeal.
Court-appointed appellate attorney Stephen Temko argued that while Minsky may have done something morally wrong, he broke no law because the women were not acting under duress.
“We disagree,” the justice wrote. “[W]e believe Minsky’s conduct posed a threat of danger or retribution within the meaning of [Penal Code Sec. 261(b)].”
‘A Dangerous Place’
“Minsky’s victims were led to believe that if they did not perform sexual favors for him, he would testify against their loved ones, resulting in a certain prison term. Patricia N. believed her husband would be raped or killed in jail and was in terrible danger. Sherry N.’s husband was a former policeman and she believed that as a result he would be physically harmed while in jail. Jill H. pleaded with Minsky not to hurt her daughter. It is common knowledge that prison is a dangerous place where inmates are the frequent targets of violence—. Based on this, we hold that Minsky’s four victims submitted to his sexual demands under duress based on the danger their loved ones faced should they be incarcerated.”
In addition, Rubin explained, one of the women was led to believe that she was meeting with the victim of a hit-and-run caused by her husband—in effect that the victim would send her husband to jail if she did not submit to sex with Minsky. That was a “threat of retribution” and this duress as a matter of law, the justice said.
The jurist also rejected the argument that the victims’ conduct was unreasonable because they could not have reasonably believed that they could get criminal charges dropped by having sex with a lawyer. Even if the victims were engaged in criminal activity, such as witness tampering or obstructing justice—an issue on which the court had no opinion, Rubin said in a footnote—‘[t]hat should not absolve Minsky of his crimes—which were the result of a reprehensible scheme to coerce his victims to submit to his sexual demands.”
Deputy Attorney General Theresa Cochrane argued for the state.
The case is People v. Minsky, B155109.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company